We arrived into Fiji on a Friday after a three night sail, specifically into the non-touristy island of Vanua Levu. We did have a lot of miserable rain the first night, but overall, we had decent wind, and no major seasickness to speak of (thanks to the patch!).
The Farmer’s Market (Not Open on Sundays)
World Coconut Day: A celebration of the coconut for two days straight. I bought some soaps for gifts and some coconut oil.
We picked up a mooring our first night at Savusavu Marina because Copra Shed and Waitui had none available. We celebrated our arrival with dinner and beer/wine after clearing into customs, etc. Woo hoo! Fiji! I already felt better about this destination compared to Tonga, and after having been here about a month, I still feel the same way. After one night, we were able to get a mooring at Copra Shed, where we stayed until we left for the east side of the island.
The Celebration Beer!
Singers from Australia
One day in Savusavu, Ariana decided to sail Optis with the local kids. She hasn’t been sailing on a small boat since the BVIs.
Ariana Sailing an Opti
Ariana Sailing with the Fijian Kids
Enjoying Lunch at the Copra Shed Marina. They REALLY Do Drink Fiji Water Here!!
While we’ve been in Savusavu (which is one town on Vanua Levu), we celebrated Ariana’s 14th birthday. We arranged a tour which would include paddleboarding down a river, bareback horseback riding, and a hot spring pool. One other woman (a doctor from New Zealand working for a few months in Fiji) came with us on the trip. We set out for a ride upriver, and once we arrived, we loaded onto our paddleboards for the first time. We have actually never done paddleboarding before so we were looking forward to it. It was a leisurely paddle down the river. We had to navigate some very shallow parts along the way, but no one got launched off or anything. We all managed to handle it very well, and took a swim about half-way down. We also got to watch some Fijian men spearfish from their boats and they were incredible! They could throw the spear and catch a fish. I think I would starve if I had to count on my own ability to land an arrow in the center of a moving fish!
We then had the opportunity to ride horses for a little while. We have definitely been on better horseback rides, but we also had saddles for those. For this one, I was put on a pillow on top of the horse. I didn’t really want the pillow, because how are you supposed to hold on to the horse with your legs and big ‘ole butt? I found out the pillow was a very bad idea. I got the horse up to a canter, and the stupid pillow starting coming out up front and I nearly took a nose dive off the front of the horse! I stopped her, but I seriously was about to lose it; I had about two seconds more and I was a goner! I couldn’t wait to get that pillow out from under me. Things were much better after I did get rid of it and I had no further nearly-trampled experiences.
Ariana was a bit disappointed because the owner of her horse didn’t really want her doing more than a walk (I think he was nervous Ari would hurt herself), but at least she got a leisurely ride. Ryan was happy to have a man holding his horse as they walked. I don’t think he felt comfortable riding without a saddle. It definitely IS different! We had gone on a 2.5 hour horseback ride in Nicaragua prior to this trip (2 years ago) and both of the kids did great going through woods, cantering on the beach, and navigating their horses through barbed-wire fences that lined the backyard fences. This trip was a let down in that regard, but it was still pretty fun. Dan, of course, looked like a proper Texan, riding his horse like a pro. (Lisa, you would be proud!) We finished the day out by going to a hot springs pool that, in actuality, really seemed like a glorified mud puddle. Good thing there weren’t any strange brain-eating Amoebas in the water.
Paddleboarding for Ari’s birthday
Paddleboarding down the River
Horseback riding on the beach. Ari is on the far right, Ryan is on the far left, and Dan and I are in the middle.
Having a cold coconut after our ride. These photos were taken on our guide’s camera phone and weren’t the greatest, but beggars can’t be choosers!
The Hot Springs Pond
Ariana’s birthday cupcake!
We had a bout of terrible, rainy weather, and I was thinking we were going to have Tonga all over again. But, one day we decided to rent a car despite the rain. Our intended destination was Labasa, which was about a two-hour drive. I have to say, it ended up being one of the most surreal days for me. It felt like we traveled through time, to India decades ago. So, we left in the rain, drove up the mountain reaching the rain forest which had gorgeous palms I hadn’t seen before and the most amazing scenery, but it was cold and surprise, surprise–still raining. But then, we went down the other side of the mountain and the scenery changed dramatically. It was dry, sunny, and completely not what you would expect from Fiji. We arrived into Labasa and it was like a hectic India. It was so neat! After minutes before driving in desolate natural beauty, we then went into a dusty, busy, river town full of Indian-run shops and restaurants. Aside from the loud music blasting from some of the shops, it felt like we had stepped back in time. There were some women dressed in traditional Indian clothing that was so ornate and beautiful. One older woman dressed traditionally stopped to pinch Ryan’s and Ariana’s cheeks and then kissed Ari on the cheek. I don’t think they saw a lot of blond/blue-eyed kids around Labasa! And to top it off, we ate at the restaurant at the Grand Eastern Hotel, which had many photos from the early 1900s and the atmosphere seemed like 1970s India (at least from the movies I’ve seen). With respect to Fiji, Indian people were brought to the island to work in the sugar cane industry in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Apparently, Solomon Island people were brought to Fiji even earlier to work in the Copra industry (the processing of the coconut). Learning the history of the places we visit has been pretty fascinating.
Lunch at the Grand Eastern was great, and after walking around for a bit, it was already time to start heading home.
On the Way to Labasa
The Rainforest at the Top of the Mountain
It was Chilly Enough to Wear that Sweatshirt!
Coming back down to the Dry Side. So Little of the Land Here is Developed. It is Beautiful!
The East Side of Vanua Levu Island
After nearly two weeks in Savusavu, we took the boat over to the east side of the island, which was about 40 miles away. (It is a very big island.) We took a mooring that belonged to Jack Fisher, an icon of the bay. He is a native Fijian who lives with his family in the bay and has been there for the yachties for a very long time. It is well known that Jack is available to take cruisers out to the popular dive spots. Here, you have to have your own gear, or you can go with one particular resort. But, the way it works–everyone in the bay who wants to dive (or snorkel) pile on one boat (usually a catamaran for the space) and head out to the reef where you anchor. That boat drags everyone’s dinghies out. Then you load into your dinghy and, tied together, Jack brings you out to the actual dive site. They are drift dives, so Jack watches for your bubbles and picks you up when you are done with your dive. He does this for $10 Fijian dollars, which is $5 USD. That’s a great deal and he is a very nice man. One day, we went with a handful of other boats, and because Lian on Changes in Latitude did not want to dive, I was able to use her gear. That allowed Dan, Ari and me to dive together, which was a nice surprise! The next day, Dan and Ari went for a dive with a group of other folks, and Ryan and I kayaked around the bay, took a hike along the ridgeline, and swam in the ocean. We had a nice time while Dan and Ari dove. Yet another day, we had everyone over to our boat to do another dive, but the conditions were rainy and it looked rough.
Charisma, Changes in Latitude and Sojourn on Do Over Going to the Dive/Snorkel Sites
Frances and Jonathan from Charisma
Owen, Marcel and Anna from Changes in Latitude and Sojourn
Dragging the Dinghies
We aborted and tried again two days later. It was still rough by white wall and purple wall, but we went for it. That dive was pretty nice, although the visibility wasn’t as good as some of the other diving we have done (e.g., Fakarava, Niue). I went with the couple on Changes in Latitude (Lian and Owen) so that Dan and Ari could both do the dive after us. The following photos certainly don’t show the colors that were evident that far down (we were at about 60-80 feet).
This is how the kids get to school in Vianni Bay!
Hiking in Vianni Bay
All four of us decided to take the dinghy into the beach in Vianni Bay to go hiking along the ridgeline (and into the woods). We were met on the shore by four kids (2 of Indian descent and 2 of Fijian descent) who helped us get our dinghy out of the water and climbed a tree with our kids. We told them we wanted to go hiking and we wanted to donate some textbooks to the school. The oldest boy said their father was a school teacher and he was excited to take us to his home to meet him. So, we headed over to his house, which was extremely modest. They had no furniture. Most people sit on mats on the floor, which is where their dad was–typing away on his computer! How funny it is to see a SMALL house with no furniture yet the residents are computer-connected. After we met their dad and donated the books, we were off for our hike–with four helpful escorts!
Our Four Hiking Guides
The kids showed us the trail and led the way.
Hiking the Ridgeline
What’s funny is that the kids originally did not want to walk the ridgeline because they were told there was a dangerous beast up there. But, they followed along with us anyway. As luck would have it, we ran into a mythical creature with sharp teeth and horns coming out of its head. Okay, no we didn’t, but we did have some magical views.
Views From the Top
The Valley Side
This was a short hike, so we were up for finding another route. The kids came to the rescue again and told us they would take us on a hike through the forest–where there are fruit trees and killer cows. Yup. Killer cows. We were off on our adventure.
Trying Yet Another Country’s “Guava” The Little Girl Climbed the Tree to Knock Down Some Fruit for Us
We walked for about 30 minutes or so and arrived at a house that had farm animals, including cows, pigs, and chickens. We said “bula!” (hello) and met some of the family members who live there. Apparently, one of the kids’ friends lived in this house too. They had a pig tied by the hoof so he couldn’t go too far, and the kids got to pet him. Here, pigs are really not viewed as pets; I think they are mostly ignored by the kids unless us foreigners are excited by them (like I am!). Well, as we were leaving to go back to the beach, one of their cows got out of its fenced pasture. The kids said: “don’t run.” So we didn’t. No sense in getting mauled by some killer cow out in the middle of nowhere! Maybe there really are killer cows there. 🙂 The woman ran down and ushered the cow back into the pasture and we were on our way again. All in all, it was a fun hike, and it was made even more fun hearing about the kids’ perspectives of the island legends. Interestingly, the two Indian boys were here living only with their father. Their mother and sister were living elsewhere. The family had lived in New Zealand and the dad took a position teaching on the island. It was nice to see kids who played outdoors all day rather than sitting inside hooked to electronics…
The Family who Lived at the End of Our Hike
Back to Savusavu
After Vianni Bay, we headed back to Savusavu. Dan realized he needed to complete several credits for his CME (continuing medical education) requirements so we needed to have some strong Internet. I guess we can’t be totally “off the grid” since that would mean Dan’s medical license would lapse! When we got back to town, K1W1 Beanz was there! We ended up having dinner with them our first night back and had a good time. Another time, we all went to curry night at Waitui Marina. There was another boat of kids there as well, so all of them sat and hung out together. Ariana was the oldest and she is definitely getting to that age where she often would rather hang out with the adults, but she likes the kids on K1W1 Beanz so she chose kids that night.
Kids at Dinner
Music at Curry Night
Photos in Savusavu
Fully provisioned, we were off to Namena Island (about 20-25 miles away), where we planned to do some diving. The night before departing, Kate and Steve from Blue Summit came into Savusavu and we had dinner with them. It was great catching up with them; we hadn’t seen them since Tahiti!
I will do a separate post for Namena, but as luck would have it, we were there for a few nights and ended up breaking the roller for our anchor chain on our bow. So…we ended up back in Savusavu on a mooring so we could fix it. We have an awful lot of anchoring to do so we needed to get our spare on there.
Upon arrival back into Savusavu, we had the most warm (and loud!) welcome from Nina and Paw Paw. We hadn’t seen Nina since Tonga and we hadn’t seen Paw Paw since American Samoa. We were so excited to see them! We had dinner at the marina with Steve, Lynda, Peter, Karen, Roy and Elaine. It was a fun night. Interestingly, this island has very good and very inexpensive restaurant food. The Indian and Thai curries are good, they have fresh rotis they serve with the Indian curry, there is a religious Korean restaurant that serves great dishes, and they have passable pizza. At one restaurant (Decked Out), the kids and I ordered the boneless Indian chicken curry, and it came with a roti, white rice, Dahl soup, and a spicy vegetable dish (like pumpkin). Dan had the Thai Chicken Curry. We shared a large Fiji Gold Beer and the kids had Cokes. We also bought a large Fiji water. The total price for everything was $27! You can’t beat that! And it was so good… I know the main touristy island is much more expensive so we may as well enjoy the surprisingly low prices here.
We have been in Fiji for over a month already and we have so many more islands to see. If we get the rivets we need, we are leaving tomorrow. (Such is the cruiser’s life; you never know if you can get the parts you need!) We will eventually go down the Yasawas and then over to the main island (Viti Levu) after stopping in one bay on the western side of this island. Then, we’re off to New Zealand!